By Selwyn Harris
After more than three years in business, a local pharmacy has shut its doors.
Family Pharmacy at 1360 E. Highway 372 left customers scratching their heads this week when they found the doors to the business locked.
Owner Ali Raza said there were several issues that forced him to sell the pharmacy’s patient list to Walgreens.
One of those issues dealt with the quantity of painkillers being dispensed compared to non-pain medications.
“We were very sad to leave but there was so many issues that was going on. There are stipulations for the controlled substances and there has to be a proportionate between ordinary drugs and controlled substances. There was a lot of pressure from the wholesalers that we have to keep the dispensing of the controlled substances way below and that was hurting the business quite significantly and this was going on for a few months. We decided it was better to leave now,” he said.
The business owner said that due to laws relating to the dispensing of prescription medications, his supply was being drastically cut back.
“There were a couple of other pharmacies in Las Vegas that were getting hit. We didn’t get hit but we were getting those notions. We were cutting ourselves down and people were noticing that for those specific pain medications. They would come to the pharmacy and the pharmacy’s answer was ‘no we don’t have it; we don’t carry it.’ It was because there was limited supply from distributors. It was like a ripple effect. The DEA Drug Enforcement Administration was pressing them and they were pressing us and ultimately the patient was getting the heat. This struggle was going on for quite some time,” he said.
Raza said that his inability to provide patients with certain medications eventually affected the bottom line of his business.
He also said that he wished his customers had more advanced notice of the closure of the pharmacy.
“My initial reaction was sadness. I didn’t want to leave but the people were great and they loved us so much and I felt bad,” he said.
One unique aspect of Family Pharmacy was the fact that it was the only pharmacy in town that provided a delivery service, which Raza said he was more than happy to provide to customers.
“We knew the people needed that and it helped a lot. One thing I must say is that people did not abuse it. The people who needed it the most, they asked for it,” he said.
Pahrump resident Linda Merryman said she was blindsided when she went to pick up her medications recently.
“I called in a prescription on Friday afternoon and they said it would be ready in 30 minutes and I told them I will come in tomorrow. When we showed up Saturday morning, the doors were papered over and there was a sign that said prescriptions have been transferred over to Walgreens. We loved them, they were a wonderful hometown business that went out of their way to help and did whatever it took to make sure their customers were satisfied,” she said.
Aside from what she called excellent customer service, Merryman also said that Family Pharmacy seemed to have the best price for her medications.
“The prescription that I got is generic and didn’t really cost a lot of money but it costs more at Walgreens. At Family Pharmacy, you call, they get it ready and go in the next day. At most, you had to wait three or four minutes. At Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and Smith’s, there are always long lines and it was very impersonal. I like to have the personal touch and you couldn’t ask for better customer service,” she said.
Local resident Jim Gronemann echoed Merryman’s feelings about the pharmacy’s customer service.
He also said his prescription was misplaced when he went to another pharmacy in town to pick up his medication.
“I went to Family Pharmacy and there was a sign on the door saying that they transferred all prescriptions to Walgreens. With all of the Family Pharmacy people going to Walgreens, it was going to be worse than Walmart, so I went to CVS. CVS took all of my information and supposedly called Walgreens and they said I wasn’t in the system. With a last name like Gronemann maybe they got the wrong information. I was told the easiest thing to do was to have folks bring their medication bottles into Walgreens and that would make life a lot simpler because they would have all of the prescription numbers on them. Because who memorizes their prescription numbers?” he said.
Another loyal Family Pharmacy customer, Pam Thibault, said she has been with the pharmacy since day one.
“They had the lowest prices in town and Walgreens prices are outrageous. My husband was here just last week and nothing was said. The customer service was excellent. I don’t like the people who work in the pharmacy at Walgreens. I can get my medication transferred to someplace else. I’m just sorry they are gone because they were excellent,” she said.
On Tuesday, Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger verified that the retailer did indeed acquire Family Pharmacy.
“I can confirm that we have acquired the pharmacy files for Family Pharmacy. That store closed end of day Saturday, February 9. We are making this a seamless transition for customers of Family Pharmacy. All they would need to do is come into the Walgreens store with their prescription bottle and their prescription and we would have them on file and we’ll be able to quickly dispense their medications. A notice has gone out to all patients and again this will be a seamless transition,” he said.
Family Pharmacy had a staff of roughly five employees.
Raza said Walgreens promised to employ at least a few of them.
“I’m sure they will have to look at their demand and things like that. We were actually overstaffed just to serve the customers,” he said.
As far as opening another pharmacy, Raza said it’s still too early think about that. “I don’t know yet,” he said.